Your five first steps after a car crash

The year ending September 2011 saw a total of 204,350 injuries result from accidents on the UK’s roads, including thousands of deaths.  No matter how good you are behind the wheel, accidents happen.  Here’s what to do immediately following a car crash to minimise the stress and risk of the situation.

1. Stop and think

Failure to stop if you have caused damage or injury constitutes an offence under the Road Traffic Act.  Survey the scene of the accident, making it as safe as you can by switching your engine off and hazard lights on.  You may be shaken up, so take a deep breath and try to keep calm.  Until you know exactly what happened, you should not accept blame or offer any form of settlement as it could count against you.

2. Report the accident

If you’re not sure whether or not you should dial 999, do.  It’s vital that you report the accident if anyone involved in the crash has been injured, you hit an animal, cause a road blockage or hazardous situation, or someone scarpers without leaving any details.  Failure to inform the police within 24 hours could land you with an unwelcome fine, penalty points or even disqualification so don’t take the risk.

3. Record the details

It’s always worth keeping a notebook and pen in the car, so that in the event of an accident, you can record as many details as possible.  Be sure to note down the date and time of the crash, any injuries to drivers, passengers or pedestrians or any damage caused to the vehicles involved.  Record street names, the location of vehicles, skid marks and collision points.  Make use of the camera on your phone, snapping any pertinent details, or make a sketch of the scene.  Be sure to record any other information that may be relevant, including weather, lighting or the condition of the road. If you notice anything irregular, such as signs that the other party has been drinking, make a note.

4. Exchange information

By law, everyone involved in the accident must exchange details.  Be sure to swap names, addresses, email addresses, home, office and mobile telephone numbers.  Witnesses should do the same.  Don’t forget to record the make, model, registration number and colour of all vehicles involved.  It is also important that you exchange car insurance details with all other drivers – it may be that they are not the registered keeper of the car they’ve been driving, in which case you must find out who is.

5. Inform your insurance company

You must notify your insurance company of the crash as soon as you can.  Read your policy thoroughly – it will specify the time period within which accidents must be reported.  If you miss this time slot, your cover may become invalid and you could find yourself facing an unwelcome bill.  If you believe that another party was responsible for your injuries or the damage to your car, you may decide to make a claim.  In this instance it may be worth consulting a firm of road accident lawyers who can recover compensation on your behalf.